Conditionals: third and mixed

Conditionals: third and mixed

Do you know how to use third conditionals and mixed conditionals? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how third and mixed conditionals are used.

We would have walked to the top of the mountain if the weather hadn't been so bad.
If we'd moved to Scotland when I was a child, I would have a Scottish accent now.
If she was really my friend, she wouldn't have lied to me.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Conditionals 2: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Do you know how to use third and mixed conditionals?

Third conditionals and mixed conditionals

Conditionals describe the result of a certain condition. The if clause tells you the condition (If I hadn't been ill) and the main clause tells you the result (I would have gone to the party). The order of the clauses does not change the meaning.

If I hadn't been ill, I would have gone to the party.
I would have gone to the party if I hadn't been ill.

Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Third conditional

The third conditional is used to imagine a different past. We imagine a change in a past situation and the different result of that change.

If I had understood the instructions properly, I would have passed the exam.
We wouldn't have got lost if my phone hadn't run out of battery.

In third conditional sentences, the structure is usually: If + past perfect >> would have + past participle.

Mixed conditionals

We can use mixed conditionals when we imagine a past change with a result in the present or a present change with a result in the past.

1. Past/Present 

Here's a sentence imagining how a change in a past situation would have a result in the present.

If I hadn't got the job in Tokyo, I wouldn't be with my current partner.

So the structure is: If + past perfect >> would + infinitive.

2. Present/Past

Here's a sentence imagining how a different situation in the present would mean that the past was different as well.

It's really important. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have called you on your holiday.

And the structure is: If + past simple >> would have + past participle.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Conditionals 2: Grammar test 2

Average: 4.2 (118 votes)

Hi ganecia,

Right, it's a combination of a first conditional "if" clause and a second conditional main clause. Because of this mix of structures, it's unclear how the speaker considers the situation. 

That said, I would tentatively interpret it more like a second conditional (i.e., being exposed to Covid is possible but somewhat unlikely to happen), for a few reasons. Firstly, the main clause uses the second conditional form. Secondly, the main clause is also the final thing to be said, which is important because the speaker might have started saying "If I have been exposed ..." but then realised that it sounds relatively sure to happen, and then corrected him/herself by changing mid-sentence to a second conditional to make it seem less sure to happen. Thirdly, by coming at the end of the sentence, the main clause "what would I do?" leads directly into the listener's response, so it may invite the listener to respond using the second conditional too. Fourthly, there is also the general context that Covid is less widespread than it was several years ago, so being exposed to it may be considered somewhat unlikely. But this is all just my guess. The speaker's meaning is unclear so without further information, it's not possible to know what exactly the speaker meant.

I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Username656602 on Wed, 27/03/2024 - 02:43


Hello, could you answer me a Question?

Can I mix first conditional with second conditional like she would help a charity if she wins the lottery, or she will help a charity if she won a charity. I saw the first sentence in an article. 

If the two sentences above are grammarly correct, what are the different meanings between them and 

she will help a charity if she wins the lottery, and she would help a charity if she won the lottery.

Thank you very much,

Hello Username656602,

Although you might come across such examples from time to time they are certainly non-standard. There is a basic conceptual conflict in that they mix a real situation with an unreal result or vice-versa. There are many possible conditional constructions but they are all consistent in either being about real situations or unreal situations; we do not mix these.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user picrowcn

Submitted by picrowcn on Fri, 15/03/2024 - 11:11



The answer to the following question is "were"

If my grandmother _____ alive, she would have loved to see me graduate.

Is it right?

Hello picrowcn,

Yes, it is correct. In second conditionals, it is possible to use 'were' for all subjects in the 'if' clause.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 23/02/2024 - 09:34


Hello Team, Could you please help me? Which form of verb is correct in the following sentence?

  • If you ( stop - stopped ) smoking, you might feel healthier.

    I think both are OK, right?

    Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both forms are possible. Might can be used in both present/future real conditional structures (stop) and present/future unreal conditional structures (stopped).



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user SepiEnglish

Submitted by SepiEnglish on Tue, 06/02/2024 - 06:38


Hello. I am an English teacher abroad. Few days ago I used a structure to make a mixed conditional question.
I was told the sentence was incorrect, even though all the sources say otherwise.
The sentence was “what would you have done if you inherited a large amount of money?”
If + past simple >> would have + past participle.
Could you please clarify?

Hello SepiEnglish,

It is certainly possible that you could hear someone use the sentence that you wrote, and the meaning would be clear.

It is, however, technically not correct because the inheriting of the money spoken about here must be in an imagined past time. The correct form would be 'if you had inherited', which clearly shows this imagined past time. 'if you inherited' suggests an imaginary present or future (not a past).

As the explanation above mentions, it is possible to use 'if' + past simple with 'would have' + past participle, but the ideas expressed are still subject to the laws of physics (so to speak!). In other words, it's strange/illogical to talk about what you would have done in the past if you maybe inherited money later today or tomorrow.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,